With work and family obligations, online coursework could be the answer to a new professional you.
So you want to go back to school. But between a full-time job, taking care of your kids and pets, not to mention keeping up with friends, you've got a full plate. There's no time to drive to campus and sit in a class that's held on someone else's schedule. But that doesn't have to be the only option if you pursue online education, which you can earn after hours, on the weekends, or whenever you've got time.
"Beyond flexibility and convenience, online learning gives students the ability to work at their own pace when they want," Melissa Loble, associate dean of distance learning at University of California Irvine. "You can go back and replay a video, look at an image again, or review a concept you might not have understood fully. That's just not something you can do in the classroom." She adds that students who are working professionals can often apply their studies to their current jobs, becoming more effective employees.
Before you make the leap, take a look at these popular degree programs that have successfully made the online transition. It'll take motivation and determination, but you could earn an in-demand degree on the weekends if you're up for the challenge.
Are you interested in a new career that's in huge demand? If you're a detail-oriented person with an interest in making our medical system work like a well-oiled machine, studying health care administration online might be just what the doctor ordered.
According to the College Board, in a health care administration program, you can expect to learn the ins and outs of how to manage the daily operations of a medical facility. You may learn about budgeting, how to handle staffing issues, and policy making in a hospital or doctor's office.
The Online Advantage: One huge pro of studying a health care administration program online is that it can bring people from all different experiences, backgrounds, and geographic locations together in a virtual classroom, which brings a rich diversity to coursework and case studies, says Loble. This is a good primer for the real world, she adds, where you will need to work with a range of people - from other administrative staff to patients - all with a range of expectations and problems.
Do you already spend your weekends on your computer surfing the net? If so, you should consider channeling more time and energy into learning more about your computer by earning a degree in computer science online.
According to the College Board, computer science majors may study how computer systems and humans interact with each other. Classes may include instruction in artificial intelligence, digital system design, and software engineering.
The Online Advantage: According to Loble, studying computer science online actually gives students a leg up on what's going on in the tech workplace - telecommuting. "People are being asked more and more to work from home, and they have to know how to be part of a company at a distance," says Loble. "It's really important to pick up those skills to be able to work independently and communicate with coworkers at a distance, which an online course can teach you."
Big business is a dog-eat-dog world, but fortunately for you, we're going to let you in on a secret that could help you get ahead - the in-demand business administration degree online. You can hold down your 9-to-5 and fit the key principles of business in on the weekends, working toward the goal of launching a new career or advancing in your current one.
What can you expect to study? The College Board says that some of what you encounter while studying business administration may prepare you to organize, direct, and control an organization's operations.
The Online Advantage: According to Loble, studying business administration online prepares students for the increasing globalization of the business world. "Business jobs these days are so group-work-oriented that it's important for students to learn how to communicate and work with people at a distance. That's the reality at companies these days - your coworkers could be in another part of the world."
Have an inkling that you were put on this earth to teach kids concepts and prepare them for the real world? A career as a teacher is definitely something to consider, and taking your coursework online could allow you to realize your true calling without having to leave your current job.
What will your weekends look like? According to the College Board, education majors may study how people learn and different strategies to teach them. Additionally, your courses may include educational psychology, philosophy of education, and supervised student teaching.
The Online Advantage: "Education was one of the first of the disciplines to go online, and it does well online, because generally the instructors are thinking about how to teach and the most effective way to meet your needs," says Loble. Online instructors who teach education understand that they need to foster dialogue through simulations, projects and other exercises that translate to effective virtual learning, she adds.
In essence, according to Loble, studying education online prepares you for the challenges of teaching in a modern classroom where technology has become increasingly important.
Maybe you're already a nurse and looking to get a promotion. Or you're a caregiver and think you've got the compassion and discipline to go pro as a nurse. Either way, you're busy and need a flexible option to pursue this career. Earning a degree in nursing online just might be your golden ticket.
What kind of coursework will you accomplish? According to the College Board, you might expect to learn how to examine patients and treat their immediate needs as well as how to promote better long-term health. Some typical courses include microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and pharmacology.
The Online Advantage: Because nurses often work unconventional hours and long shifts, taking coursework online offers much-needed flexibility for those already in the field, Loble says.
Another great thing about studying nursing online is how realistic medical simulations have become - you're not really missing anything by studying online, Loble says.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.
Are your weekends full of "Law & Order" marathons? Instead of lying on the couch and watching our legal system play out on T.V., you could be enrolled in an online criminal justice program, cracking your own cases with forensic simulations.
Criminal justice is an interdisciplinary major that delves into every aspect of the law, crime, and the criminal justice system, according to the College Board. Coursework could include criminology, policing society, and victimology.
The Online Advantage: Similar to health care administration, putting a criminal justice program online brings people together from all parts of the country, even the world, says Loble. This can in turn make for better prepared professionals, she says, because everyone shares and learns from each other's community experience.
"It leads to richer responses to case studies and assignments," says Loble. "And when you have a country or world-wide student body, that's always great for networking down the road."
You're the problem solver in your group of friends - the one everyone goes to when they need someone to listen. If so, your insight into the human mind may be the perfect foundation for earning a psychology degree online.
According to the College Board, as a psychology student, you may study the way humans and animals act, think, feel, and learn. You may take classes such as developmental psychology, perception and sensation, and social psychology.
The Online Advantage: "So much of psychology is about in-person consultations which makes online [study] tricky," says Lobel. "But you can accomplish a lot of that through webcams and Skype. You can watch case studies and evaluate guest speaker lectures all on your own time, over and over again." She explains that online study gives students a chance to master the concepts at their own pace, as opposed to a classroom setting where you can't slow down a professor or return to a PowerPoint slide.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Psychology Program.
* All potential careers listed from the 2012-2013 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the potential career. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.
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